Obama seeks halt to Guantanamo trials
By Jane Sutton – 6 mins ago Reuters –
U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba (Reuters) –
Hours after taking office on Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama ordered military prosecutors in the Guantanamo war crimes tribunals to ask for a 120-day halt in all pending cases.
Military judges were expected to rule on the request on Wednesday at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, an official involved in the trials said.
The request would halt proceedings in 21 pending cases, including the death penalty case against five Guantanamo prisoners accused of plotting the September 11 hijacked plane attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.
Prosecutors said in their written request that the halt was "in the interests of justice."
Obama has pledged to shut down the Guantanamo prison camp that was widely seen as a stain on the United States' human rights record and a symbol of detainee abuse and detention without charge under the administration of his predecessor, former President George W. Bush.
Human rights activists and military defense lawyers had urged him to halt the special tribunals that are formally known as military commissions and urged him to move the prosecutions into the regular U.S. courts for trial under long-established rules.
"In order to permit the newly inaugurated president and his administration time to review the military commission process, generally, and the cases currently pending before the military commissions, specifically, the secretary of defense has, by order of the president directed the chief prosecutor to seek continuances of 120 days in all pending case," prosecutor Clay Trivett said in the written request to the judges.
The request said freezing the trials until May 20 would give the new administration time to evaluate the cases and decide what forum best suits any future prosecution.
About 245 foreign captives are still held at the detention center that opened in January 2002. The Bush administration had said it planned to try 80 prisoners on war crimes charges, but only three cases have been completed.
Defense lawyers expected and supported a freeze of the tribunals, which have moved in fits and spurts amid numerous legal challenges. They had complained that the tribunals allowed hearsay evidence and coerced testimony and were subject of so much political interference that fairness was impossible.
Obama's order was widely anticipated. Jamil Dakwar, who is monitoring the tribunals for the American Civil Liberties Union, had said earlier Tuesday that waiting for the order was comparable to a death watch for a patient whose demise was certain.
"We're just waiting for the reading of the will," Dakwar said.
Economic woes fault of 'greed, irresponsibility:' Obama
2 hrs 41 mins ago AFP –
(AFP) – New US President Barack Obama gave notice Tuesdsay that an era of economic "greed and irresponsibility" is over as he pledged swift and bold action to kickstart the world's biggest economy.
Warning the nation cannot long prosper "when it favors only the prosperous," the new president told the cheering crowds that "everywhere we look, there is work to be done.
"Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age," Obama said in his inaugural speech.
"Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet."
The way forward, the new president pledged, was to act now.
"The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act -- not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth.
"We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together."
In the runup to his inauguration, Obama warned of a "tough year" ahead and a recession that will linger for much longer unless Congress takes "dramatic" action on his mammoth stimulus plan.
Key Democratic party lawmakers have agreed to support the 825-billion-dollar stimulus package, but many Republicans are skeptical, saying the deficit-ridden nation cannot afford to borrow and spend its way back to prosperity.
The US Senate has set the stage for an early victory for the new president by freeing up the second 350-billion-dollar slice of a financial bailout, leaving the House of Representatives to act this week.
Obama has said he was glad Congress had seen the "urgency" of action to act on the stimulus bill, which he hopes to have on his desk in the Oval Office by mid-February.
The package, designed to create or preserve three to four million jobs in the sinking US economy, includes billions of dollars to spark a fast track development of alternative energy industries and sources.
"Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions -- who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans," Obama said in his inaugural speech, in answer to concerns from Republican lawmakers who oppose big government.
Dismissing them as "stale political arguments," he said "the question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works."
He also promised to hold to account those who manage tax dollars in order to restore trust between the people and the government.
"Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill," he said, apparently seeking to deflect fears raised during the campaign that he leaned toward socialism.
"Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control -- and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous," he said.
The first African-American president underlined the importance of spreading wealth by extending "opportunity to every willing heart" as part of sound economic policy, rather than charity.
Wall Street shares plunged four percent Tuesday as renewed fears about the global banking sector offset optimism surrounding Obama's inauguration. In Asia, South Korean and Japanese shares opened lower.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama promised to improve U.S. ties with the Muslim world in his inauguration address on Tuesday, after tensions that followed the September 11 attacks and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect," said Obama, who became the first black president of the United States.
Obama, a practicing Christian, spent several years of his childhood in Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation. His American mother, Ann Dunham, married Muslim Indonesian Lolo Soetoro after the end of her marriage to Obama's Kenyan father.
"To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist," Obama said.
Under President George W. Bush, U.S. relations with Muslim nations have often been fractious, particularly after the September 11 attacks.
Many Muslims were angered by the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the opening of a prison for foreign terrorism suspects at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, widely seen as a symbol of human rights abuses of mostly Muslim prisoners carried out in the name of the "war on terrorism."
The Council on American Islamic Relations welcomed Obama's promise on seeking better relations with Muslim nations.
"We hope this encouraging statement, coupled with a change in America's previous policies toward the Muslim world, will help improve our nation's image and promote a safe and prosperous future for all of humanity," said Nihad Awad, executive director of the council.
The first Muslim to be elected to the U.S. Congress, Minnesota Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison, said Obama's words were an important signal of goodwill to Muslims in the United States as well as the rest of the world.
"I do believe it could undermine recruiting for al Qaeda," he told Reuters, because "their message depends on trying to demonize the United States as a country that is somehow hostile to Islam and the Muslim world."
Ellison said Obama's outreach would make it hard for al Qaeda to sustain its anti-American message.
Many Muslims are already excited about Obama, he said.
"If you were to go to Damascus, or Cairo, or Jerusalem today, you could find an Obama tee shirt. People are excited about the possibilities for what this means around the globe."
The population of Ellison's district is three or four percent Muslim, he said. Since his election to Congress in 2006, another Muslim has also been voted in: Democrat Andre Carson of Indiana.
About 300 young Muslims from 76 countries signed a letter published in the Washington Post on Tuesday, urging the new president to make policy changes that could improve relations between the Muslim world and the West.
(Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell; editing by Patricia Zengerle)
Obama freezes salaries of some White House aides
Print By JENNIFER LOVEN, AP White House Correspondent Jennifer Loven, Ap White House Correspondent – 14 mins ago
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama's first public act in office Wednesday was to institute new limits on lobbyists in his White House and to freeze the salaries of high-paid aides, in a nod to the country's economic turmoil.
Announcing the moves while attending a ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building to swear in his staff, Obama said the steps "represent a clean break from business as usual."
The pay freeze, first reported by The Associated Press, would hold salaries at their current levels for the roughly 100 White House employees who make over $100,000 a year. "Families are tightening their belts, and so should Washington," said the new president, taking office amid startlingly bad economic times that many fear will grow worse.
Those affected by the freeze include the high-profile jobs of White House chief of staff, national security adviser and press secretary. Other aides who work in relative anonymity also would fit into that cap if Obama follows a structure similar to the one George W. Bush set up.
Obama's new lobbying rules will not only ban aides from trying to influence the administration when they leave his staff. Those already hired will be banned from working on matters they have previously lobbied on, or to approach agencies that they once targeted.
The rules also ban lobbyists from giving gifts of any size to any member of his administration. It wasn't immediately clear whether the ban would include the traditional "previous relationships" clause, allowing gifts from friends or associates with which an employee comes in with strong ties.
The new rules also require that anyone who leaves his administration is not allowed to try to influence former friends and colleagues for at least two years. Obama is requiring all staff to attend to an ethics briefing like one he said he attended last week.
Obama called the rules tighter "than under any other administration in history." They followed pledges during his campaign to be strict about the influence of lobbyist in his White House.
"The new rules on lobbying alone, no matter how tough, are not enough to fix a broken system in Washington," he said. "That's why I'm also setting rules that govern not just lobbyists but all those who have been selected to serve in my administration."
In an attempt to deliver on pledges of a transparent government, Obama said he would change the way the federal government interprets the Freedom of Information Act. He said he was directing agencies that vet requests for information to err on the side of making information public — not to look for reasons to legally withhold it — an alteration to the traditional standard of evaluation.
Just because a government agency has the legal power to keep information private does not mean that it should, Obama said. Reporters and public-interest groups often make use of the law to explore how and why government decisions were made; they are often stymied as agencies claim legal exemptions to the law.
"For a long time now, there's been too much secrecy in this city," Obama said.
He said the orders he was issuing Wednesday will not "make government as honest and transparent as it needs to be" nor go as far as he would like.
"But these historic measures do mark the beginning of a new era of openness in our country," Obama said. "And I will, I hope, do something to make government trustworthy in the eyes of the American people, in the days and weeks, months and years to come."
Diplomats, generals join Obama in war meeting
Print By ANNE GEARAN, AP Military Writer Anne Gearan, Ap Military Writer –
26 mins ago
AFP WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama invited the U.S. ambassador in Iraq to sit in on a war council session Wednesday that the Pentagon calls a first step toward ending the nearly six-year-old conflict.
"This is a logical first step from a president that wants to learn about or to speak to the people that are most directly involved," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.
The White House said the strategy session would include Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, both critics of the management of the war. Obama campaigned on a promise to pull U.S. combat forces out of Iraq within 16 months.
The White House meeting was part of a symbolic framing of a new president's agenda on his first full day in office, but it does not completely fulfill Obama's oft-repeated promise to call in the Joint Chiefs of Staff and tell them to close down a war he opposed.
A senior military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the schedule is not confirmed, said that meeting with the Joint Chiefs — the president's senior uniformed military advisers — would come within a week.
Instead, the agenda as announced by the White House includes the U.S. ambassador in Iraq, Ryan Crocker; another State Department representative and the general responsible for both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The State Department was expected to send William Burns, its senior official until the expected confirmation of Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of State later Wednesday.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, was attending along with Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Both are holdovers from the Bush administration, now getting new instructions.
The top general in Iraq, Gen. Raymond Odierno, was participating by video hookup. He has already drawn up one set of withdrawal plans. Odierno's boss, Gen. David Petraeus, was to be there in person, along with Obama's new chief of staff and White House national security adviser.
The agenda for Obama's White House meeting changed several times. At one point it was to include a broader look at the war in Afghanistan, which Obama has said was hobbled by a misguided focus on Iraq.
The Pentagon first said that the top commander in Afghanistan would participate, and then said he would not.
Ali al-Dabbagh, a spokesman for the Iraqi prime minister, told Associated Press Television News on Tuesday that Iraq is willing to have the U.S. withdraw its troops and assume security for the country "before the end of 2011," the departure date agreed to by former President George W. Bush in November.
Senior military leaders had been wary of any timeline, saying that withdrawal plans should be keyed to continued security improvements, but have said that they could meet either the deadline set with Iraq or the shorter one Obama wants.
Associated Press writers Pauline Jelinek and Matthew Lee contributed to this report.
(CNN) -- Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States and the nation's first African-American president Tuesday. This is a transcript of his prepared speech.
In his speech Tuesday, President Obama said America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.
My fellow citizens:
I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.
Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often, the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebearers, and true to our founding documents.
So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.
That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet. Watch the full inauguration speech »
These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land -- a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.
Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America: They will be met.
On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.
On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.
We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.
In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the fainthearted -- for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things -- some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor -- who have carried us up the long, rugged path toward prosperity and freedom.
For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.
For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.
For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.
Time and again, these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.
This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions -- that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.
For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act -- not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.
Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions -- who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.
What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them -- that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works -- whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account -- to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day -- because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.
Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control -- and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart -- not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.
As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: Know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.
Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.
We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort -- even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.
For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.
To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West: Know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.
To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.
As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment -- a moment that will define a generation -- it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.
For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.
Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends -- hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism -- these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world; duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.
This is the price and the promise of citizenship.
This is the source of our confidence -- the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.
This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed -- why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent Mall, and why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.
So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:
"Let it be told to the future world ... that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive... that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."
America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested, we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back, nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.
Last edited by BlueAngel : 01-21-2009 at 02:31 PM.
By Liz Sidoti And Matthew Lee, Associated Press Writers – 2 hrs 13 mins ago
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Friday struck down the Bush administration's ban on giving federal money to international groups that perform abortions or provide abortion information — an inflammatory policy that has bounced in and out of law for the past quarter-century. Obama's executive order, the latest in an aggressive first week reversing contentious Bush policies, was warmly welcomed by liberal groups and denounced by abortion rights foes.
The ban has been a political football between Democratic and Republican administrations since GOP President Ronald Reagan first adopted it 1984. Democrat Bill Clinton ended the ban in 1993, but Republican George W. Bush re-instituted it in 2001 as one of his first acts in office.
A White House spokesman, Bill Burton, said Obama signed the executive order, without coverage by the media, late on Friday afternoon. The abortion measure is a highly emotional one for many people, and the quiet signing was in contrast to the televised coverage of Obama's Wednesday announcement on ethics rules and Thursday signing of orders on closing the Guantanamo Bay prison camp and banning torture in the questioning of terror suspects.
His action came one day after the 36th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion.
The Bush policy had banned U.S. taxpayer money, usually in the form of Agency for International Development funds, from going to international family planning groups that either offer abortions or provide information, counseling or referrals about abortion as a family planning method.
Critics have long held that the rule unfairly discriminates against the world's poor by denying U.S. aid to groups that may be involved in abortion but also work on other aspects of reproductive health care and HIV/AIDS, leading to the closure of free and low-cost rural clinics.
Supporters of the ban say that the United States still provides millions of dollars in family planning assistance around the world and that the rule prevents anti-abortion taxpayers from backing something they believe is morally wrong.
The ban has been known as the "Mexico City policy" for the city a U.S. delegation first announced it at a U.N. International Conference on Population.
Both Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who will oversee foreign aid, had promised to do away with the rule during the presidential campaign. Clinton visited the U.S. Agency for International Development earlier Friday but made no mention of the step, which had not yet been announced.
In a move related to the lifting of the abortion rule, Obama is also expected to restore funding to the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), probably in the next federal budget. Both he and Clinton had pledged to reverse a Bush administration determination that assistance to the organization violated U.S. law known as the Kemp-Kasten amendment.
The Bush administration had barred U.S. money from the fund, to contending that its work in China supported a Chinese family planning policy of coercive abortion and involuntary sterilization. UNFPA has vehemently denied that it does.
Congress had appropriated $40 million to the UNFPA in the past budget year but the administration had withheld the money as it had done every year since 2002.
Organizations and lawmakers that had pressed Obama to rescind the Mexico City policy were jubilant.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the move "will help save lives and empower the poorest women and families to improve their quality of life and their future."
"Today's announcement is a very powerful signal to our neighbors around the world that the United States is once again back in the business of good public policy and ideology no longer blunts our ability to save lives around the globe," said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Population Action International, an advocacy group, said that the policy had "severely impacted" women's health and that the step "will help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, abortions and women dying from high-risk pregnancies because they don't have access to family planning."
Anti-abortion groups and lawmakers condemned Obama's decision.
"I have long supported the Mexico City Policy and believe this administration's decision to be counter to our nation's interests," said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
"Coming just one day after the 36th anniversary of the tragic Roe v. Wade decision, this presidential directive forces taxpayers to subsidize abortions overseas — something no American should be required by government to do," said House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.
Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., called it "morally wrong to take the taxpayer dollars of millions of pro-life Americans to promote abortion around the world."
"President Obama not long ago told the American people that he would support policies to reduce abortions, but today he is effectively guaranteeing more abortions by funding groups that promote abortion as a method of population control," said Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee.
AP White House Correspondent Jennifer Loven contributed to this report.
By JIM KUHNHENN, Associated Press Writer – 28 mins ago
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats sought to ease Republican complaints about a massive economic stimulus plan Friday, meeting with GOP leaders in the White House and promising to consider some of their recommendations.
Many Republican lawmakers say the $825 billion package is too costly, and that too much of the spending is for long-range projects that won't aid the economy quickly. Some economists say the package should be even bigger, however, and it was unclear whether Republicans would have much impact.
House and Senate GOP leaders "had some constructive suggestions, which we'll review," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters after the meeting with Obama and House and Senate leaders from both parties in the Roosevelt Room.
Speaking at the National Press Club shortly after the White House gathering, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader in the Senate, said he believes the measure will clear Congress by the mid-February target date set by Obama and Democratic leaders.
In brief remarks before the meeting, Obama urged bipartisan support for the package, adding that he wanted to hear the Republicans' concerns.
"I know that it is a heavy lift to do something as substantial as we're doing right now," Obama said. "I recognize that there are still some differences around the table and between the administration and members of Congress about particular details on the plan.
"But I think what unifies this group is a recognition that we are experiencing an unprecedented, perhaps, economic crisis that has to be dealt with, and dealt with rapidly."
He thanked congressional leaders for working quickly on the rescue package that he says will create 3 million to 4 million new jobs.
"That is going to be absolutely critical and it appears that we are on target to make our President's Day weekend," he said. President's Day falls on Monday, Feb. 16.
Obama also said that any legislation governing the use of an additional $350 billion in financial industry bailout money must include new measures to ensure accountability and transparency.
After the meeting, House Republican Leader John Boehner said he and his colleagues told Obama they feel the stimulus package is too expensive and too slow. He said Republicans told Obama of their own plans to "get fast-acting tax relief in the hands of American families and small businesses, because, at the end of the day, government can't solve this problem."
Republicans have been seeking deeper tax cuts and have said there was no reliable estimate of the bill's impact on employment.
Democrats tried to mitigate the impact of a Congressional Budget Office study that questioned administration claims that the money could be spent fast enough to reduce joblessness quickly.
After attending the White House meeting, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said there was "significant discussion about the CBO numbers." He said Obama's budget director, Peter Orszag, who recently headed the CBO, told participants that the study analyzed only 40 percent of the pending stimulus bill and that Orszag "would guarantee that at least 75 percent of the bill would go directly into the economy within the first 18 months."
Also on Friday, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus unveiled a Senate version of the tax-cutting portion of the bill. Social Security recipients would get a bonus payment of $300 under the plan. Its tax cuts and spending proposals total $355 billion. It will be paired with $400 billion in further spending proposed by the Appropriations Committee on the Senate floor.
The House version of the bill advanced in committees this week. Republicans, who are in the minority, were unable to make inroads with their proposals.
The House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday approved $275 billion in tax cuts on a party-line vote of 24-13. The House Energy and Commerce Committee, also working on the bill, cleared $2.8 billion to expand broadband communications service. And on Wednesday night, the House Appropriations Committee approved a $358 billion spending measure on a 35-22 party-line vote.
Obama is scheduled to meet in the Capitol with House Republicans next week, at their request. But by then the House bill could be on the floor awaiting a vote.
Government reports showed the number of new jobless claims was up and new home construction hit an all-time low in December.
Associated Press writers Charles Babington, Andrew Taylor, David Espo, Stephen Ohlemacher and Kevin Freking contributed to this report.